6 July 2015……..Yes, but no, but yes, but….. This famous catchphrase from “Little Britain” reflects how the planning dept’s decision report comes across. What is proposed (a surgery) is a) needed, but b) pretty appalling, selfish, ugly and may never happen.
It is clear from the report that the application to convert Grade 2 Listed Holy Trinity Church, with its separately listed, Grade 2 flint enclosure wall (along three surrounding streets and on its east side, behind Denmark Villas terraced housing) is not ready for proper determination. A decision, however, has been made to Grant Consent for conversion of Holy Trinity Church to a doctors’ surgery, albeit with a wall of 21 Conditions to deal with the unfinished business they have so far not agreed about.
Why agree unfinished business and unresolved problems? Because the applicants have the right to go to Appeal for non-determination of the application beyond a certain period of time, unless they agree to extend the period of consultation. And as with all developers, the information supplied has been only as much as needed to force a positive decision, leaving the rest to be dealt with behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny and consultation. That is what the Conditions list is about.
The medical practices wanting to relocate to this site (Ventnor Villas and Sackville Road) lobbied their patients who filled in form letters and declared their support for the scheme (almost certainly without ever seeing the application content or caring about it) and this was obvious from a viewing of them in the case file. And the existing crap facilities in these two practices is a big incentive to support relocation to a new Holy Trinity site. In principle that would have been absolutely brilliant.
But it isn’t brilliant and here is why:
1. The entire Eaton Villas frontage area is EXCLUDED from the scheme. Why? What is to happen where the Church Hall and scout huts are? Do the Church Commissioners have an as yet unknown plan for that bit? Along the north side, in shade? Housing? What?
2. The graceful, beautiful fig tree that oversails the flint wall by the public toilets block in Goldstone Villas is to be chopped down along with other trees there so the doctors (seeking a profit) can build themselves a pharmacy there. The council’s sustainability officer suggests a public allotment is created within the grounds instead.
3. The pharmacy will impact on nearby Boots and potentially reduce its profitability to a level which provokes its eventual closure. They have already lost trade to the pharmacy created in the Charter Medical Centre in Davigdor Road.
4. The Sackville practice catchment stretches to Wish Road. They were supposed to go into the purpose-built surgery below the flats in Portland Road on the site of the old bingo hall/Art Deco cinema. They didn’t take it in the end; and it remains empty and on the market seeking doctors to take the space (Zoopla/Zoomla?). I’d like to know what happened on that! Or was it the simple lure of a profitable pharmacy at Holy Trinity that changed their minds?
5. The listed integrity of Holy Trinity’s roof and its listed wall will be heavily compromised/destroyed. The roof is to be remodelled with the valley filled in and the resulting new roofline pockmarked with 35 rooflights, then covered with fibre cement fake ‘slates’ – real slate being deemed unaffordable. 50% of the listed flint wall (negligently described by the Conservation Advisory Group in its supporting comment as bungaroosh) on the Goldstone Villas side is to be torn down to accommodate a set of railings and the pharmacy block. The council’s heritage team see no justification for the railings or removal of listed flint wall at all and believe the pharmacy should go behind the flint wall and not be a brick wall replacing it. The team considers the rooflights and fake slate replacement roof “harmful”.
6. The listed integrity of Holy Trinity is to be further compromised by removal of all the stained glass windows and totally inadequate, incomplete details of how the window designs would work – including double glazing. The report complains about their wish to retain the open tracery (just take out the glass) because of a number of serious practical issues and clearly they were unable to get any agreement so, hey, leave it to a Condition because it isn’t serious enough to withhold actual consent overall. But it is unresolved and serious. It is a design issue and should be part of the public consultation process. NOW. This is one of the yes, but no, but….bits of the report.
7. The listed integrity of Holy Trinity would be further compromised by the “removal of original masonry to create the staff entrance…..” and in the report it is given that officers consider “that the existing entrance and lobby should be reconfigured to include the staff entrance, thereby avoiding controversial alterations”, etc.
The listed status will almost certainly be lost. The building and wall will remain and be re-used if the applicants feel they can be arsed to meet and discharge the 21 Conditions in order to implement this consent. And consent has been given, in spite of multiple breaches of Local Plan policies, and for this reason:
“Whilst considerable weight is given to the finding of harm, this is considered to be outweighed by the advantages of the scheme”